Thank You ASA RISE

Editor’s Note: The John A. Hartford Foundation is collaborating with ASA RISE to advance equity through a series of blog posts in support of the development and dissemination of equity-related, partnership-based thought leadership through ASA's Generation platform. This blog post is part of that series.

ASA RISE is a 20-week social justice and leadership program for rising leaders of color in aging. The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Archstone Foundation and RRF Foundation for Aging co-fund the program.


To set the stage, it was April 2022 in New Orleans, I was attending the American Society on Aging’s On Aging conference to present for the first time, and I was a bundle of wavering emotions, with excitement and nerves topping the batch.

The conference was buzzing—so many sessions and opportunities to connect—but as a fairly new professional it felt slightly jarring to learn that the aging field is much smaller than I had realized, intimidating even. But then I attended a session to learn about the newly launched ASA RISE program.

As I think back on it now, it was a combination of Dr. Patrice Dickerson’s excellent presentation and the comradery shown by fellows in Cohort 1 that sparked my interest. I could not stop thinking about ASA RISE. Unable to place it at the time, clearly I had been yearning for a sense of community. To feel seen and to feel that I belonged, particularly as an emerging professional. It is too easy to experience imposter syndrome—systemically designed if you ask me—but nonetheless a nagging presence even when we know we’ve earned our way.

‘Simply being and presenting as our authentic selves is bravery in one of its purest forms.’

Fast forward to 2023 when I finally made the decision to take the leap of faith and apply to the fellowship program. I was overjoyed to learn that I would be a part of Cohort 3—The Catalysts, as we are known. Because I have since encouraged others to apply for the program I have been asked for my responses to the application and to the process itself, to which I answer simply that I just responded as myself; I didn’t want to sound like anyone else.

And as I reflect on the application and interview process, I can fully appreciate how being myself was enough. See, being a part of ASA RISE reinforced my thinking that I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my career.

To my fellow Catalysts, I thank you.

You all have become a part of my community and it is an incredible feeling to know that I am a part of yours. Together we have learned that through purposeful and courageous leadership we can lead with equity and justice. Exercising liberatory consciousness to take meaningful action and advocate for true change. It is comforting to know that as BIPOC leaders in aging we are eager and willing to act as catalysts for change. I am excited as I continue to watch our evolution and paths unfold. Patrice, Cynthia and Victoria have empowered us to shine!

I am forever grateful to have been matched with my amazing mentor and now friend, Sarah Galvan. It meant so much to me to have had the opportunity to learn from an incredible Latina who is absolutely paving the way in the field of aging. Sarah has fully inspired me to continue to lead with my own definition of leadership and fearlessly through my own voice. Sarah, thank you for your mentorship and above all your kindness.

ASA RISE taught me that courage takes many forms, and that simply being and presenting as our authentic selves is bravery in one of its purest forms. For the very first time I have felt seen and know that I belong. Through ASA RISE I have grown personally and professionally—I have fortified my voice and walk in my purpose, having defined my “why.” I have moved past doubts and hesitation to accept opportunities presented to me, and wholeheartedly seek opportunities to continue my growth.

As I reflect upon the past 6 months I am filled with the utmost gratitude and pride for the internal growth that was achieved. I like to say that the lenses through which I view life have been amplified tenfold. I find myself leading with more confidence and presenting fully as myself—a Latina courageous leader who is blazing her own path and is ready to extend mentorship to pay it forward along the way!

Cristina Diaz, MPH, is the Caregiver Programs Coordinator for AgeOptions, in suburban Cook County, Ill., cochaired its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion staff committee, supervises the caregiving networks of supports and services, and spearheads special projects. In 2023 she was appointed to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Alzheimer’s Association as the Area Agency on Aging’s representative for the state.

Photo caption: Cristina Diaz in her local library.

Photo credit: Courtesy Cristina Diaz.